Celtic playmaker Shunsuke Nakamura has vowed to help Japan win all their four remaining FIFA World Cup™ qualifiers after admitting "a sense of crisis" -- and a need to help ease the pressure on coach Takeshi Okada. Japan, three-time Asian champions, lost to unfancied Bahrain in their last FIFA World Cup qualifier on March 26 to put the pressure on Okada, who only took over from Ivica Osim in December.
"For me, the season won't end until we have taken all the four matches," Nakamura told reporters as he returned home on Saturday after lifting his third straight Scottish Premier League title. "I have felt a sense of crisis after we lost one match. We need to pile up points as soon as possible."
Okada has called up Europe-based players for the first time as he prepares his squad against Bahrain, Oman and Thailand next month. Bahrain are top of the Asian Group 2 table with two wins and six points, ahead of Japan and Oman on three points and winless Thailand.
Okada used new St Etienne signing Daisuke Matsui and Wolfsburg midfielder Makoto Hasebe in Japan's narrow 1-0 friendly win over Côte d'Ivoire on Saturday.
Nakamura, 29, is expected to figure at home against Paraguay in Saitama on Tuesday in another warm-up game. The left-footed free-kick specialist recalled that Okada, then in his first stint as national coach, called him up for a training camp ahead of Japan's FIFA World Cup finals debut in France 1998. "I didn't believe I had reached the national team level then. But he told me that I have some stuff which others don't," Nakamura said.
Nakamura did not make the FIFA 1998 World Cup squad but he went on to shine with the J-League Yokohama Marinos before moving to Italy's Reggina in 2002. He was transferred to Glasgow three years later. "He gave me the chance, which made me hang in there and grow up," Nakamura added.